San Bernardino Pass, Bellinzona

#4 of 19 in Things to do in Bellinzona
Outdoor Activity · Hidden Gem
San Bernardino Pass (Italian: Passo del San Bernardino, German: Bernhardinpass, 2,066 metres (6,778 ft)) is a high mountain pass in the Swiss Alps connecting the Hinterrhein and the Mesolcina (Misox) valleys between Thusis (canton of Graubünden) and Bellinzona (canton of Ticino). Located in the far eastern side of the Western Alps it is not to be confused with the Great St Bernard Pass and the Little St Bernard Pass. The top of the pass represents both the Italo-German language frontier and the watershed (drainage divide) between the Po basin and the Rhine basin. Marscholsee is within the pass at an elevation of 2,053 m (6,736 ft).

The route first became important as a mule track in the fifteenth century when the route between Thusis and Splügen was known as the Via Mala. A road for wheeled vehicles was opened in 1770; this road was significantly improved between 1821 and 1823, financed in part by the Kingdom of Sardinia, keen to improve a trade route connecting Genoa and Piedmont to the Graubünden that was not directly controlled by Austria.

Traffic flow was much facilitated when in 1967, the San Bernardino road tunnel was completed: since then vehicle traffic on the pass has been reduced, benefiting those taking the time to avoid the tunnel. The pass road is only open from May to November.

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San Bernardino Pass reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
84 reviews
  • Not the hardest drive on a motorcycle, its funny but many passes like the Gavia, Splügen or Maloja is harder, But when you get to the top its probably on of the prettiest views  more »
  • Enjoyed driving the San Bernardino Pass, there there are quite a few turns and great views, also there's often less traffic if you travel that way.  more »
  • Less traffic even on weekend. Nice hiking routes from the top of the pass. It was a nice driving experience.
  • Great views up here. Reward for cyclists in particular is the long downhill all the way to Bellinzona.

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